Cadre Reviews and Restructuring – Civil Services and Defence Services

The Civil Services and Defence Services have entirely different roles and mutually exclusive spheres of influence.

The task of Civil Services is Administration.

The task of Defence Services is Warfighting.

It is, therefore, unwise to try to propagate rank/status “equivalence” between Civilian Bureaucrats and Military Officers whose jobs are totally different.

The Civil Services and the Defence Services have separate service conditions and should have separate compensation systems (pay/perks/pensions etc) and hence separate pay commissions.

Unfortunately, most politicians are ignorant about military matters and they feel that Warfighting is similar to Administration/Policing.

Also, politicians tend to favour the Civil Services in matters of pay/perks, status/equivalence etc – which creates a perception that Defence Services are being constantly downgraded.

This perception results in a desperation among Defence Services to seek parity with Civil Services.

One of the ramifications of this “parity competition” is the frequent “cadre reviews” which distort the rank/responsibility equation.

While the resulting “top heavy” organisational structure is undesirable in the civil services – the effect in the defence services is much more severe.

Is it desirable to tinker with the time-tested system left behind by the British which was working fine….?

There is a saying:

“Don’t try to repair something that ain’t broke”

Why tinker with a system that is running fine…?

If a system is running well – best to let it run.

Sharing an insightful article received on a Veterans’ Forum

Governance and Ranks by Devendra Saksena

The recent recommendation of the armed forces cadre review committee that every army officer should retire at the rank of Major-General or above has put our governance structure in the dock.

The Committee, which has also recommended the abolition of a couple of middle-level military ranks, makes no bones that these radical proposals emanate from a desire of army officers to attain parity with their civilian counterparts.

Given the fact that the rank structure in the Army is as old as the Army itself and is essential for maintaining discipline, serious thought should be given to put in place measures that would address the feeling of deprivation and hurt in the armed forces.

Till Independence, as suited a colonial administration, the military and bureaucracy worked in close coordination.

Friction started building up soon after Independence when the doctrine of civilian control over the military was given full play by the nascent Indian Government.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, who, till Independence, ranked just after the Governor-General was put down by several notches, but there was no serious conflict as the Army and civilians had their separate spheres of influence.
However, conflicts soon developed even amongst the various components of the civilian bureaucracy because of our transition from a predominantly agrarian society to a highly complex modern construct.
New challenges had emerged, old sources of Government finance like land revenue had given way to income-tax and central excise, the need for generalist administrators had declined and domain experts were in demand.

Not surprisingly, services like Income-tax and Customs became important and started demanding parity with the IAS.

Eventually, the Government partially acceded to their demands, other services also got a taste of the fish and loaves of office but with one rider; whatever any other service got, the IAS got more.
A bonanza of promotions ensued for the top men in the civilian bureaucracy; bombastic nomenclature was often invented for mundane jobs. Thus, departments have new apex grade posts like Principal Chief Commissioners and Principal Chief Controllers who are oerforming the same functions as their less ostentatiously named predecessors.

The IAS, of course, raced far ahead. An IAS officer could aspire to be a Divisional Commissioner in sixteen years.

Senior posts proliferated for the IAS and IPS.

Instead of eight or nine Divisional Commissioners thirty years ago, UP now has around thirty of them.

Similarly, as against one Inspector-General of Police, most large States now have ten posts of Director-General of Police.

Combined with the Government’s inability or unwillingness to fill vacant lower-level posts, the civilian bureaucracy is on the verge of becoming an inverted pyramid.

An insane quest for promotions has resulted in adding levels to the bureaucratic hierarchy, with a deleterious effect on governance. Simply put, there are too many persons to give directions but very few to obey.
Conceding the Army’s demand for changing the rank structure may have unforeseen effects on army discipline because the world over military ranks are conferred depending on the number of troops commanded; armies of many small nations are often led by officers of the rank of Major-General or

A better way to satisfy the Army’s demand for equivalence could be to resolve the anomalies in the civilian bureaucracy which would also improve the quality of governance.
The first step towards addressing the government structure would be to abolish the Warrant of Precedence which decides the inter se seniority of all Government functionaries.

A colonial relic, the Warrant begins with a disclaimer: “(The Warrant) is only used to indicate ceremonial protocol and has no legal standing. It is not applicable for the day-to-day functioning of the Government of India.”

But, the Warrant of Precedence is the root cause of most of the inter-services rivalries and causes much friction and heartburn in the day-to-day functioning of the Government.
TN Seshan, as Chief Election Commissioner, went to the Supreme Court to improve his ranking in the Warrant of Precedence. There are recorded instances where the Governor of a State refused to talk to the Departmental Secretary because the Governor felt that he should be addressed by the Minister.

Often, important senior-level posts remain vacant because people in other services have not been promoted to an equivalent level.

In the interest of good administration, seniority should be defined only within departments and all departments and organisations should be treated as equal. The working of various departments could be coordinated by coordinating bodies at the district, state and national levels.
Then, we can have a running scale common to all services with employees moving on to the next post when the vacancy arises, subject to suitability. These simple steps could take care of much of the heartburn and friction caused by the present system.
Thereafter, the structure and organisation of civilian bureaucracy should be reviewed for optimal functional efficiency doing away with unnecessary layers of officialdom.

A sufficient number of lower-level functionaries have to be recruited so that important functions of governance are not perfunctorily performed by contractual employees.
Another pressing need is to redefine the scope of duties of all employees in all departments, considering the fact that computerisation has radically altered the way Government business is conducted.
In principle, the goal of the bureaucratic system is to contribute to the welfare of society but in what could be an apt description of most modern bureaucracies, the nineteenth century French novelist, Honore de Balzac, wrote: “Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies.”

As a country, our aim should be to have a system where each member of the bureaucracy rises above his pygmy-hood and realises his full potential, benefiting both himself and society at large.
The bureaucracy has often been accused of status-quoism, non-performance and much worse but the inherent contradictions in its organisation have not been addressed so far.
The recent move to induct domain experts at Joint Secretary level is a recognition of two facts ~ domain experts are required for governance and domain experts do not rise to senior levels under the present system. The opposition of the entrenched bureaucracy to this move only shows that the bureaucracy wants to preserve its turf even at the cost of good governance.

With the contagion of opportunism poised to infect the armed forces, the time has come for a complete reorganisation of the civil services. One only hopes that at the end of the re-organisation exercise, Government functionaries will realise that public service, not self-glorification, is the aim of their job.
The writer is a retired Principal Chief Commissioner of Income-Tax.

Comments on Military Reorganization

The four different studies being pursued by the Army HQ have the potential of transforming our army into leaner and meaner force. Amongst these studies is the one focused on the re-organising the Army HQ, a behemoth as it stands today that contributes to enhance bureaucratic control at the cost of speed in decision making. It also involves a colossal investment in terms of manpower, denuding field formations and units of officers.

The study has identified a few offices that could be disbanded or merged with other existing establishments. On top of the list is Directorate General of Military Training (DGMT).

The Indian Army’s Training Command at Shimla, has come off age. Most of the DGMT’s tasks already stand assigned to the Training Command. As such, the DGMT or the vestiges of whatever is left of it are no longer required and the functions currently assigned to it can easily be absorbed by the Training Command.

Foremost amongst the disbandments is the DDG Military farms. The Shekatkar Committee report had also given similar recommendations and most of the establishment is already in the process of being axed. The enforcement of the recommendation of the study will only hasten the pace of a work already in progress.

The NCC Directorate is in for the biggest reform. Currently, it employs a mix of serving and retired officer. The entire organization is proposed to be staffed by retired officers, with a retired Major General at the helm. The organization will operate directly under the Ministry of Defence.

Certain offices require reassigning to branches other than the current functional models in vogue. Currently, the Director General Financial Planning, the army’s top book keeper, reports to the Deputy Chief (P&S). It makes sense to have him assigned to the Vice Chief’s office thus providing a more holistic review of his allocations.

The Directorate of Indian Army Veterans has been recommended to be placed under the HQ Integrated Defence Staff (IDS). Similarly, the Directorate General of Quality Assurance and the newly formed Directorate of Indigenisation are recommended to be placed under the IDS.

A few mergers at the top levels of the Army HQ have been recommended. Currently, the Perspective Planning (PP) Directorate assesses futuristic requirements while the Weapons and Equipment (WE) Directorate undertakes procurement to equip the army for the future battlefield. The two functionalities are inter-related and the option finding favour is of merging the two directorates in a single Directorate General of PP&WE. The merger will also involve certain tasks involving think tanks; proposed to being assigned to the Army Training Command or establishments like CLAWS and CENJOS (our think tanks).

Similarly, the Director General (DG) Information Services and DG Information Technologies are proposed to be merged as DG IS&IT. DG Remount and Veterinary Corps is proposed to be merged under DG Supply and Transport. HQ Tech Group could be merged with the EME Directorate.

The recommendations address the military’s media offices in a big way. Obviously, the army has perceived the importance of media in its operational planning and execution. The current offices of the Additional DG (Public Information) that looks after operational publicity could be in for a big revamp. The recommendations suggest establishment of an office of DG Shaping of Information Environment (SIE). Resources of MO & MI Directorates will be pooled in this directorate with its DG reporting directly to COAS/ VCOAS. The emphasis will shift to Perception Management and Cyber Warfare, Psychological Operations, Operational Security and Electronic Warfare; all brought under the DG SIE.

As far as manning of staff appointments in the Army HQ is concerned, all appointments will be manned by officers of the rank of Colonel and above. This will free Lt Cols and officers of lower rank for postings to battalions.

Some officers of the rank of Lt Cols, not empanelled in their promotion boards may be posted for specialist functions like Finance & Budgeting/ Contract Management/ Operational Logistics & Supply Chain Management/ Land, Works & Asset Management/ Installation Security Management etc. These officers will form the core of specialist officers who can be posted in other formation HQs also. The recommendations have also opined in favour of creating separate specialist minor corps for these officers giving them certain benefits in terms of retirement age to make these cadres attractive.

The study also recommends lateral entry of retired service personnel into the AFHQ cadre from the pool of retiring officers, JCOs and other ranks. Such entries will be up to 50 % of the AHHQ cadre strength. This is a crucial part of the recommendations and will require political will since it involves civilian employees. Hopefully the Ministry will find the courage to implement it!

Most recommendations of the study are revenue neutral if not revenue saving. The study has also recommended the relocation of a host of branches from their location in South Block and SenaBhawan, thus depopulating these buildings. Should the recommendations be accepted, it would definitely boost efficiency, reduce cost, cut through bureaucratic layers and create a more responsive Army HQ.

Please comment. I appreciate your feedback.

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